In American English, "Knocked up" means "pregnant." I just found out via an article regarding jobs that no longer exist that in British English, they use use the phrase "Knocked up in a completely differnt way. This due to the job of knocker-uppers being the tapping or knocking on windows to awaken people in the days before alarm clocks. From "Knocked up" to mean "woken up", it appears that the meanings split somewhere between the 1920s and the 1940s.

Does anyone know the history of how the meanings split and exactly why and how it happened?

  • Hi, and welcome to the site. We have a search function; if you use it, you'll find that many of your questions have an answer already. Your knocked up question has a very good answer here. – anongoodnurse Apr 12 '14 at 1:48
  • Sorry for the choppy structure in my question above...I was playing with the linking tools and fudged my sentences a little. On the question I'm looking for when and how the split in meanings happened. – handog Apr 12 '14 at 1:51
  • Your question is fine; it is in no way unsuitable at all. If you read the answers, there's a lot of info there. It's the same question exactly. And it does have answers. If you have a different question, please let us know what was not addressed in the previous answers. – anongoodnurse Apr 12 '14 at 1:53
  • I reworded my question a bit, does it make sense now? I'm curious as to why and how the split happened. I get the info on when it split, and to what extent, from the really great charts in the other question. But what I want to know is what went on in America that caused it to take on a very different meaning? – handog Apr 12 '14 at 2:04
  • @medica this isn't an exact duplicate. Please see Frank's answer. In BrEng knock-up also has a third meaning. – Mari-Lou A Nov 10 '14 at 6:02

I don't think there is any link between them other than knock = hit.

"The Oxford English Dictionary traces the expression back as far as 1813 and says it’s of American origin. An OED citation from 1836 refers to slave women who are “knocked down by the auctioneer, and knocked up by the purchaser.” grammarphobia

Knocked up in BE is just from knocking on the door or window. In the industrial revolution when factories, and so fixed working hours, became common - but before alarm clocks. There was a profession of knocker-up who would go around the town banging on windows


"Knocked up", in the UK at least, can also mean "made quickly".

  • 1
    Could you expand your answer, please? I think this question deserves to be reopened. A more complete, and backed up answer from you, will help to unblock it. – Mari-Lou A Nov 10 '14 at 6:04
  • It's the first definition in the Macmillan online dictionary (BrE): macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/knock-up_1 – tunny Nov 10 '14 at 7:18
  • @Mari-LouA It was only a comment at the time, pointing out that 'get pregnant' and 'wake-up' are not the only meanings of 'knocked up'. If I have some time I may scout about for something extra to add but I'd say the original question is probably still a duplicate. – Frank Nov 10 '14 at 7:29
  • The OP has never returned.The question can be modified slightly without changing its spirit, Knock up has three very different meanings :) – Mari-Lou A Nov 10 '14 at 7:31
  • @Mari-LouA Is see OED has Knock:To copulate with; also, to make pregnant. Presumably hence 'Knocking shop' for brothel. Also Knocked up in the sense To become exhausted or tired out; to become unserviceable; to break down. That version might lead to knackered (FumbleFingers had a question about knackered). Maybe If the question changed to cover a broader range of 'knocked ups' (or a new question even). – Frank Nov 10 '14 at 9:20

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